Fri, Mar 17, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Carlyle and Newbridge face off for Eastern Multimedia unit

By James Peng and Patricia Kuo  /  BLOOMBERG

Carlyle Group and Newbridge Capital LLC are the leading contenders to buy a unit of Taiwan's Eastern Multimedia Group (東森集團), as they seek access to Asia's third-biggest cable-television market, five people involved in the sale said.

Carlyle is seeking to borrow NT$30 billion (US$927 million) for its bid, said three bankers competing to lend the money to the Washington-based buyout fund, declining to be identified before an official announcement. San Francisco-based Newbridge is teaming up with US content provider Liberty Media Corp on its competing offer, two other people involved in the sale said.

Eastern Multimedia controls almost a quarter of the nation's cable television market. The operator would be the second to be sold in Taiwan in the past four months.

"Foreign funds are interested in Taiwan's cable network because we are moving from analog to digital TVs, which will lead to business opportunities and profit growth," said Vincent Liao, a telecommunications and cable television analyst at KGI Securities (中信證券) in Taipei. Providing Internet and telephone services via cable may boost sales by at least 30 percent, he said.

Final bidders for the group's Eastern Multimedia Co (東森媒體科技)

included the Liberty Media-Newbridge group, Carlyle, Macquarie Media Group and Taiwan's Fubon Group, two of the people said, declining to be identified before the winning bid is announced.

Carlyle wants to buy at least two-thirds of Eastern Multimedia in the first stage of investment, said the bankers.

The private equity firm is asking banks to bid to finance the purchase of a 100 percent stake, they said.

The sale comes after Macquarie Media Group, Australia's biggest commercial radio operator, agreed in December to buy Taiwan Broadband Communications (台灣寬頻通訊) from Carlyle for A$1.19 billion (US$890 million), giving it a 12 percent market share.

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